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Belles Come Up Short in Four-Set Final Against Comets

Nicole Lukens jumps and hits the ball while a defensive player looms at the net.
OLIVET, Mich. - The Saint Mary's volleyball team ended on the short side of a 3-1, (25-17, 25-15, 23-25, 27-25) conference match at Olivet on Tuesday evening.
 
After Nicole Lukens put down a kill to open play, the host Comets went on an 8-1 run to sway the momentum in their favor. Saint Mary's chipped away at the deficit with small scoring spurts and edged within 12-9 after back-to-back kills by Morgan VanderWey. Olivet, however, responded with a 6-2 scoring spurt for an 18-11 advantage. An attack error by the Comets, a kill by Megan Collantes, and a kill by Hannah Stacy two points later pulled the Belles to within five points at 20-15. The Comets put the next four points on the scoreboard for a 24-15 lead before taking the set 25-17.

The two sides jockeyed for position through over the first 12 points played in the second stanza as the score was deadlocked at 6-6. The Comets gained the upper hand with six consecutive points to gain a 12-6 edge. Lindsey Pelletier put down a big kill to stop the run, and Megan Collantes added back-to-back kills moments later to make it a 13-9 score. Another run by Olivet pushed the Comets' lead to 19-10 as the Belles were unable to counter with their own sizable run. A late three-point spurt by Saint Mary's made it a 23-15 score, but back-to-back kills by the Comets closed out the set by a 25-15 margin.

The Belles turned an 8-5 deficit into a 12-8 lead with a big 7-0 run in the third set. Collantes served up a pair of aces, Nicole Lukens put down back-to-back kills, and Alyssa Chong added a kill of her own to cap off the run. Each time Olivet came back, the Belles had an answer for the Comets. Ties at both 13-13 and 15-15 were broken by kills by Lukens. Chong, Collantes, and Lukens each added a kill a short while later to put the Belles up 23-18. The Comets made things interesting with a late-set run to pull within a point at 24-23, but Lukens had the answer yet again as the Belles took the set 25-23. The Belles out-blocked the Comets in the set and held Olivet to a match-low .055 attack percentage in the stanza.

Saint Mary's gained the early lead in the fourth set with a 5-0 run for a 7-2 advantage over Olivet. The Comets came back with a four-point spurt, but the Belles continued to find a response to Olivet's attempts to go on a lead-changing run. With Saint Mary's leading 15-13, the teams continued to go back-and-forth as the Belles maintained the edge in the scoring column. Olivet, however, went on a 5-0 run to turn a 21-17 deficit into a 22-21 lead. Lindsey Pelletier responded with a big kill to knot the score at 22-22. The Comets put down a solo block on the next point, but Lukens and Collantes had no-doubt kills to put the Belles up set point at 24-23. After an Olivet kill tied the set yet again, Collantes hammered down another crucial kill for a 25-24 lead. A Saint Mary's service error tied the score at 25-25, and the Comets capitalized with a kill and an attack error to take the set 27-25 for the 3-1 conference decision.

Nicole Lukens led all players with 22 kills on the night with 14 of those 22 kills coming in the third and fourth sets. Lukens added 17 digs while tallying a block assist. Megan Collantes chipped in 14 kills and 21 digs with three service aces. Morgan VanderWey posted 46 assists, 10 digs, and five kills while registering a .333 attack percentage. Courtney Pelletier had a team-high 22 digs, and Alyssa Chong had seven kills.

The Belles (8-9, 1-2 MIAA) are back home on Saturday when they host Alma for a conference match starting at 1:00 p.m.